Chargers, Tomlinson reach deal

Published 2:46 am Wednesday, March 11, 2009

SAN DIEGO — LaDainian Tomlinson is staying with the San Diego Chargers.

L.T. and the Chargers agreed to a renegotiated deal that gives the team salary cap relief. The Chargers confirmed the agreement Tuesday night. Financial terms weren’t immediately available for the three-year contract.

The deal ends a two-month saga during which it looked like Tomlinson, the 2006 NFL MVP, could be finished with the Chargers.

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‘‘I love San Diego and being a part of this team with my teammates,’’ Tomlinson said in a statement released by the team Tuesday evening.

‘‘My No. 1 priority was to stay here in San Diego. I truly believe this is the place that gives me the best chance to be successful and win a championship.

“I want to finish the job we started when I got here eight years ago. My heart has always been in San Diego. I couldn’t imagine putting on another uniform.’’

General manager A.J. Smith sounded relieved that any uncertainty over L.T.’s future was over.

‘‘The way I’m looking at it, L.T. has helped us on the field and now he’s gone a step further and he’s helped us off the field,’’ Smith told The Associated Press.

‘‘I’m just happy that it worked out,’’ Smith said. ‘‘I felt comfortable that it had a chance. We wanted him back, he wanted to come back. Everything was as smooth as it can be in negotiations.’’

Tomlinson had been due $24 million over the next three seasons, including $6,725,000 in 2009. His salary cap number would have been $8.8 million in 2009, including a prorated share of the signing bonus from his 2004 contract.

Tomlinson was slowed during the regular season with a toe injury, then hurt his groin in the season finale. He was forced out of an overtime playoff win against the Indianapolis Colts and sat out against the Steelers, the first game he’d missed due to injury in his brilliant eight-year career.

It was the second straight year his postseason was cut short by injury. That, coupled with the fact Tomlinson turns 30 this summer, raised questions about how long he would be a Charger. The team said it needed salary cap relief in order to sign other players to contract extensions, and it zeroed in on Tomlinson’s deal.

While his 1,110 yards rushing were the lowest of his brilliant eight-year career, Tomlinson still finished fourth in the AFC and 10th in the NFL.

The new deal came three weeks after the Chargers put the non-exclusive franchise tag on Darren Sproles, virtually assuring the speedy little running back/returner will be back next season. If Sproles and the Chargers don’t negotiate a long-term deal, he’ll make $6.62 million next year.

Tomlinson was voted the NFL MVP in 2006, when he set league records with 31 touchdowns — 28 rushing — and 186 points. He also won the first of two straight league rushing titles with a career-high 1,815 yards.